Leadership Lessons I have learnt from Steve Jobs

Leadership Lessons I have learnt from Steve Jobs

After watching the latest trailer of the Steve Jobs movie, I can’t wait to watch it.

I know what you are thinking. “Another Steve Jobs movie?”.. Yes I can hear you groan. There has been no shortage of books,movies & documentaries on Steve Jobs. However, I am willing to bet that this latest one will better.

Aaron Sorkin & Danny Boyle have a history of making good movies – so I know it will be good (keeping fingers crossed).

I heard about the movie early this year. The movie was inspired by Steve Jobs’s biography by Walter Isaacson.

So I decided to read the book. To be frank, it was one of the well-written biographies I have read.

I must admit I am not an Apple fan per se. They make great products; I agree – but I would rather pay for the same technology at a better value somewhere else ie. Google, Microsoft. (And I have an Indian background- so I am cheap).

However, one thing that really strikes me about Apple is the leadership Lessons I have learnt from Steve Jobs. Like him or dislike him – but you will agree that he was one of the most influential visionaries of the last few decades.

Many industries – publishing,music,animated movies,phones were revived because of Steve Jobs and his leadership.

Here are some of the key Leadership lessons that I have learnt from reading Steve Jobs’ biography.

1. HAVE A STRONG SENSE OF PURPOSE

“Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?”

This is what Steve Jobs told former Apple CEO John Sculley to lure him to come work for Apple.

At that time Sculley was working at Pepsi. In the book, it is revealed how hard Steve Jobs was trying to win him over as the new CEO of Apple. Jobs finally sealed the deal by asking this question. When someone asks a question like that, it is hard to refuse such a compelling vision.

Right from the moment Apple was created, Steve Jobs’ vision was not to just sell computers – but to give every person the opportunity to improve their lives.

One thing you will read in any Leadership books is about the power of vision. Having a strong vision is important whether you are a leader or not. A vision gives provides you with a strong pull towards the future.

However, having a strong sense of purpose magnifies your commitment to what you are doing even stronger. It becomes sort of a calling.

Right from the beginning Jobs inspired his early employees to build things that their customers would love to own. He wanted the computer (Mac) to be an extension of the end user. So, the customers can feel a stronger connection to the product.

This strong sense of purpose was what propelled the so called digital revolution that we experience today. There was a point where the computer was a privilege for the select few – Government,military and universities that could afford it. Today almost everyone in the uses some type of a computer.

As a leader, it is imperative to have a stronger sense of Purpose. Our companies must have an underlying sense of purpose. Being able to change our customers’ lives is more motivating than just showing profits on the balance sheet. People are more excited to work for a leader who imbibes that sense of purpose onto them.

2. ATTENTION TO THE DETAILS

“But in the end, when I think about leadership, passion and attention to detail, I think back to the call I received from Steve Jobs on a Sunday morning in January. It was a lesson I’ll never forget. CEOs should care about details. Even shades of yellow. On a Sunday.”
-Vic Gondutra , VP Engineering at Google
Vic Gondutra was the executive behind Google+ that launched in 2011. He once received a phone call from Steve Jobs on a Sunday Morning. Steve Jobs mentioned that it was an urgent issue and it needed to be addressed right away.
It was regarding the Google Plus icon on the iPhone. Jobs was not happy about the yellow gradient on the second “o” in Google. And he wanted it fixed right away.
That was the extent to which Jobs paid attention to each product that Apple sold.
Now, you might be groaning. “Isn’t that too much?”. “I don’t like being micro-managed”. And I totally understand.
However, don’t you think this maybe one of the reasons people line up for hours to grab the new iPhone or iPad during launch. Customers take pride in owing Apple Products. And if the company made lousy products there wouldn’t such a sense of pride in owning Apple products.
Leaders must pay attention to details. It matters. It matters to your team, your customers,your suppliers. Nobody likes to follow a sloppy leader.

3. SET VERY HIGH STANDARDS

“You know, making a product is hard but making a team that can continually make products is even harder. The product I’m most proud of is Apple and the team I built at Apple.'”
– Steve Jobs to Walter Isaacson
We have heard multiple stories about how tough it was for people to work under Steve Jobs.
A scene from the 2013 biopic “Jobs“, where Jobs played by Ashton Kutcher fires the Chief Programmer over a disagreement over how the fonts should look.
One one side you hear the tales of how early employees of Apple hated working for Steve Jobs. On the other side, you hear about how they valued the experience. It allowed them to be the best version of themselves. It brought out the best in them.
He believed in keeping only A players on the team. And almost everyone who stayed in the teams (Apple, NEXT, Pixar) stretched themselves to become A Players.
When the leader sets extremely high standards , employees tend to stretch themselves to improve their capabilities.
I know this is controversial. You might have read about how having an empathetic, caring, loving boss encourages employees to do their best ,and other feel good stories. But seriously, how many of us have been inspired by a tough leader as opposed to a non controversial Mr. nice guy type of boss?
As a leader, it is imperative to set very high standards for yourself and those around you. This will inspire them to bring out the best in them. They will put in the necessary action to make the vision a reality.

4. KEEP IT SIMPLE

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
– Apple’s First Marketing Brochure in 1977.
Whether you love Apple products or not, you will agree that the products are simple to use. Everything – the design, the layout, the settings,etc. It is designed for the average user. I have owned 3 Ipods in the last 5 years. Anyone can use them.
Simplicity has been the core of Apple’s Products right from the beginning. Jobs always wanted to the make things that were intuitively obvious for the end-user.
When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, his first business decision was to trim a lot of products. At that time there were more than dozens of products. Jobs decided to axe more than 70% of the products then. This helped him to re-focus Apple to a few core products, and was able to turn the company into profitability- and invest in new products that became the hallmark of the current Apple.
One of the strong suits of a leader is the ability to articulate the goals, plans,visions to his/her followers in the most simplest way possible. The same goes with customers -the simpler the better. The more complex it is for the employees or the customers – the more difficult it would be for the team to succeed.

Additional Reading

What are some of the other leadership or management lessons you have learnt from Steve Jobs?

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Author: Nissar Ahamed

Nissar Ahamed is an accomplished Growth Hacker with extensive experience working as a Blogger, Content Creator and Editor. He is the Founder and Editor of the Award-winning Career Blog, CareerMetis. The Blog CareerMetis has a community focused approach to career discussion and has earnt Nissar great respect amongst his peers. View all posts by Nissar Ahamed

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